By KN Viswanathan
The post-main part of a Carnatic music concert, which features lighter items, is popularly known as the tukkada session. The Music Academy programme list describes this as “Miscellaneous” or “Idhara vagaigal” in Tamil, meaning sundry items. Is it fair to so downgrade this segment?
I don’t think so. After an elaborate alapana, niraval, kalpana swaras for the main item or central piece of the concert in a ghana ragam followed by a tani avartanam comes this beautiful session. It provides the artist an opportunity to take the concert to a higher plane by judicious selection of songs of rich lyrical beauty. It has to be free from technical, intellectual or any kind of exhibitionism and should connect with the listener at a deeper level. The vocalist should be proficient in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam with proper pronunciation and the right kind of musical imagination to properly render these kritis.
Several stalwarts excelled in this session. My father K V Narayanaswamy, like his great master Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, had a special liking for this section of the concert and had a rich repertoire to present the kind of songs best suited to this session. Songs of Tamil composers like Gopalakrishna Bharati, Papanasam Sivan, Vedanayakam Pillai, Tanjavur Sankra Iyer, Arunagirinathar, Kudumbai Siddhar, Ramalinga Swamigal, MD Ramanathan, the Dasa composers in Kannada, Swati Tirunal and Irayamin Thambi in Sanskrit, Malayalam and Manipravalam, and Arunachala Kavi, Andal’s Tiruppavai, Rama nataka kritis, and kritis like Syama Sastri'sMayamma or the Neelambari kriti Ennaga manasu of Tyagaraja are some of the gems that come to mind.
KVN spaced out the programme in such a way that he had time to sing at least five to six songs after the central piece. The ragas he chose were mostly Khamas, Behag, Bagesree, Nadanamakriya, Ahiri, Neelambari, Sindhubhairavi, Kapi, Suruti, Kurinji, Brindavana Saranga, Chintamani, Chenchuritti, Manji, Yamuna Kalyani, Jonpuri and Yadukula Kambhoji.
A leading mridangam vidwan once said that he did not have to worry about the audience walking out during the tani avartanam when he accompanied KVN because they would stay back to listen to the gems he would soon sing.
When MS sang Kurai onrum illai or the beautiful Annamacharya song Jo Atchutananda (Kapi), or when KVN sang the Gopalakrishna Bharati’s Varugalamo ayya (Manji) or a folk song like Meiporul kandorku in Chenchuritti, the listener was transported to a different world and the music lingered in their hearts long after the concert.
My recommendation is that the post tani session be called the soul filling session or soul lifting session.